Sustainable Housing Project

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Agricultural Extension Education-A Reflection

One of our classes at OSU has been focusing on the history of agricultural education and extension in the United States. Class discussions have created a whirlwind of thoughts in my mind. I wonder if there are relevant lessons from our own country's history that migh be applicable to the situation of agricultural education and extension in Honduras. I'm not sure what I will think once the dust settles in my brain.

If nothing else is clear, it seems vitally important to understand that many of the major challenges in the history of our country were met head-on by the combined efforts of government, businesses, and individuals who implemented innovative ideas. Agricultural education and extension were supported from the very beginning in the early colonies and have been encouraged to expand all across the country.

I wonder how things would have resulted differently here if the Morrill Acts, Hatch Act, the Smith-Lever Acts, and the present day Farm Bills, to mention a few actions, had never been passed by the United States legislature. What if there had never been scientists educated in the Land Grant universities? Would hybrid seed have been developed as quickly, or would the Green Revolution have spread around the world as early as it did? What if agricultural co-ops, 4-H, high school Vocational Agriculture, FFA, and county extension agents had never caught on in the United States? In Honduras, there are no comparable organizations.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, 2015), 12.2% of the Honduras population faces chronic hunger. What role could agriculture education and extension play in improving the food situation in Honduras? Rigid comparisons and contrasts between the history of Honduras and the history of the United States, as far as agricultural education and extension are concerned, are of minimal value. The two countries are vastly different as far as resources, history, and culture. Surely, we can still learn from history though.

Due to the Honduras government’s mass privatization campaign in the early 1990’s, agricultural extension services have all but disappeared in the country. There has not been any successful replacement model. Some public high schools have agriculture education programs, but they have extremely limited resources. In some cases, agriculture teachers work without pay. They continue only because they are personally passionate about educating young people. There are several technical agricultural schools and universities in Honduras that teach, do research, and operate extension education programs, but they are limited in scope and do not reach into many of the remote areas.

I wonder what model might begin to reach the need of teaching agriculture throughout all of
Ohio State University students working alongside high
school students in Honduras. A little bit of help is a
great encouragement. 
Honduras. A few months ago, I interviewed a local official in one of the communities where we work in southern Honduras. I asked him about his thoughts on the need for providing agricultural education opportunities to the communities in the region. He told me that there is a whole generation of young people who have lost the knowledge of how to grow their own food. They have left the land that their parents used to cultivate and have gone to work on the big transnational shrimp, sugar cane, watermelon and cantaloupe farms. They have seasonal jobs, but do not earn enough to last them throughout the year. 

Who will step forward to meet the need for providing agricultural education in Honduras? There needs to be a continual dialogue involving governmental leaders, non-governmental organizations, private and public educational institutions, farmers groups, owners, and community leaders.


Reference

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). (2015). Regional Overview of Food Insecurity: Latin America and the Caribbean. Retrieved September 30, 2015, from http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4636e.pdf

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